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Eat Real: Amino Acids

Posted Sep 14 2009 12:00am
A question was asked this weekend about amino acids - what are they, how should I get them and why do I need them?

What are amino acids?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Protein builds the body. There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which are considered essential which means our bodies don't make them, so we must ingest them. Don't be surprised if more are discovered. Science is an evolutionary process.

Amino acids are present in protein sources. Most of us think meat when I say protein, but that is not the only way to get protein. A food source is considered to be a complete source of protein when it has all of the essential amino acids present. However, combinations of foods can create a complete amino acid profile and therefore present a complete protein, i.e. beans & rice.

High amounts of indigestible protein may be detrimental to the human body. (Meat is difficult to digest and would fall in the indigestible category.) I say 'may be' because each body is different and it's up to you to figure out what works and what doesn't in YOUR body. The RDA gives us recommendations of 30-50 grams of protein a day, more with pregnancy. You can find out what your specific needs are by listening to your body, or by checking out various sites (The intention of this blog is not to give you rules to follow, but to give you insight into what your unique body may require.)

How do I get amino acids?
We absorb amino acids through our digestive track after eating a protein source. As mentioned earlier, meat is a source of protein, but not the only one. The more digestible the protein, the easier the body can absorb it and convert it to amino acids.

Animal sources such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish, milk, and cheese have complete amino acids . However, these can be difficult to digest. Easily digested, vegetable & grain sources of protein are: avocados, beans, quinoa, hempseed, amaranth & buckwheat. The body can more easily absorb protein from plant sources than from meat. There is more absorbable protein in an avocado than an 8oz. steak. There is more protein in the steak, but the body does not absorb it and utilize it as well as it does from the avocado.

It is beneficial to get 50% of our protein intake from vegetable sources. You can also get amino acids from watermelon, Bragg's Amino's, and garlic. Because plants are so easy to digest, it takes strain off of our internal organs, especially the liver. When the liver gets a break once in a while, it can more easily detox the body.

Why do I need amino acids?
Because amino acids are the building blocks of protein and protein makes up a large portion of our body weight, we need them for pretty much everything. We need them for growth, tissue repair, immune system, hormones, enzymes, brain function, fluid & pH balance, collegen building (bones/teeth), preserving lean muscle (not building it).

Brain function is a big one. Did you know that depression can be linked to a lack of specific amino acids? There are studies and health practices that relate specific mental disorders to specific amino acids. It's called amino acid therapy.

Amino acid deficiency may manifest through reduced energy, metabolism problems, sleep disorders, stress, emotional disorders - the list is extensive.

What's important is that you decide for yourself what works for your unique body. By taking responsibility for educating yourself, you are loving yourself and allowing the evolution of your body and spirit. By giving your body what it needs, you are allowing the God within you to flow. By allowing God to flow, you are raising your vibration and allowing happiness, joy and love for yourself and those around you.
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